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The Disappearance of Rush Hour in Two Charts

With fewer cars on the roads during the pandemic, speeds have increased dramatically in cities across the U.S.

Pedestrians cross San Francisco’s empty California Street.

Pedestrians cross San Francisco’s empty California Street.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
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As rush hours all but disappeared in major U.S. cities last month, travel speeds on major roadways rose dramatically during Friday evening and morning commutes, according to data from Inrix, a Kirkland, Wash.-based traffic analytics company. Traffic subsided in stages as states and cities ratcheted up restrictions on nonessential travel.

“New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston were the leading indicators,” said Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at Inrix, “but the trend line is now being matched by basically every major city in the country.” Inrix uses data gathered from cellphones and car navigation systems to measure travel speeds. In the Seattle area, morning commute speeds were 15% higher than normal on March 13 and 23% higher a week later. Evening commuter accelerated even more, with gains of 16% on March 13 and 38% a week later.